Challenges, Opportunities, and Questions: Career Services Recruiting Platform Survey Results

Offices providing career services are currently faced with a rapidly changing technology landscape, relative to the platforms we use to manage employers’ job, internship, and cooperative education postings; events, meet ups, and career fairs; and counseling or coaching appointments with our students and alumni. Over the last few years, we have seen company mergers, the combining of separate systems, and the launch of entirely new platforms and companies!

As our offices continue to adjust to this changed environment, the Technology Knowledge Group (KG) decided to capture the current state of the field and target areas for future programming. During the summer of 2017, the KG conducted an association-wide survey of career centers and offices to identify the types of systems we all use as well as some of the common challenges we all face.

In total, 84 individuals completed the survey, from 74 institutions; during analysis, duplicate entries were removed. The results confirmed that we are truly in a period of transition, which has left many of our colleagues with a wide-ranging set of questions and the need for additional assistance and support.

Nearly half (n=36) of our participating schools reported using Handshake as their platform for students. 19% reported using Symplicity, while 11% reported using Grad Leaders. A number of other systems were being used by our member schools as shown in Table 1 below.

TABLE 1: Systems Used for Student Support

System Number of Schools Percentage
Handshake 36 49%
Symplicity 14 19%
Grad Leaders 8 11%
College Central Network 4 5%
CSO 4 5%
Purple Briefcase 4 5%
12Twenty 2 3%
Portfolium/TalentMatch 1 1%
None 1 1%
Graduway 0 0%

When providing services for alumni, the percentages indicated broader diversity among the systems being used with Handshake leading the field at 36% of schools using their platform. As shown in Table 2, 22% reported using Symplicity, while 12% were using Grad Leaders. Of particular note, 12% of respondents indicated that they were not using any system for the delivery of services to alumni.

TABLE 2: Systems Used for Alumni Support

System Number of Schools Percentage
Handshake 27 36
Symplicity 16 22
Grad Leaders 9 12
None 9 12
CSO 4 5
College Central Network 3 4
12Twenty 2 3
Graduway 1 1
Portfolium/TalentMatch 1 1
Purple Briefcase 0 0

In addition to collecting information on what platforms schools are using, the survey also collected questions from participants for the software vendors. The following broad themes emerged:

Platform Versatility – Participants zeroed in on challenges around customizability of the platforms, ease of use (simplified processes and less cumbersome access for end users), integration support for CRMs (e.g. Salesforce or Banner), and database access / analytics support (e.g. reporting or dashboards).

Platform Development – There were a number of questions on how the platforms were developed, how were career services offices involved in the initial creation of the platform, how can they be involved in future development, and what features are most used by students and employers and how those features have improved overall usage.

Proving Value and ROI – Several participants asked questions about using the system to measure Return on Investment and alumni engagement, managing longitudinal data for outcomes reporting, and integration of First Destination Surveys.

 Customer Service – These questions were focused on the quality of customer care for users of the system and the need for real-time help desk services, such as telephone and online chat support. There were also questions related to who the vendors felt their “customers” were (i.e. students, employers, or career center staff).

Employer Relations Support – We collected questions related to best practices for keeping employer recruiter or human resources contacts current. We also collected questions related to wanting to learn about ways in which the platforms could help with growing connections between employers and students and alumni.

Survey participants also had questions for their peers. Related to staff usage of the systems, there was a desire to know how much time staff members were spending in the system on a daily basis. There was also a desire to know how schools were keeping up with system updates and training their staff. On the employer relations front, there was significant interest in the approval processes being used with companies and their jobs. Finally, schools were interested in how their peers were increasing the adoption rate of the platforms by students on their individual campuses.

In light of these results, the KG will be hosting a unique session at this year’s SOACE Conference in San Antonio.

We will begin the session with a mini-panel featuring representatives from 12Twenty, GradLeaders, Handshake, and Symplicity as well as career center employees who are currently using each of the platforms. This will be followed by breakout sessions for each system, allowing attendees to explore the questions and challenges identified in this survey, as well as any they would like to bring with them to the conference.

Join us on Sunday, December 10 at 5:00 p.m. for this exciting program!




Ashley Graham Phipps

Assistant Director, Employer Relations

Wake Forest University


Peter Thorsett

Communications & Marketing Officer

Career Services

University of South Florida


The SoACE Conference Moment That Woke Me Up

During the final day of the SoACE Conference in Fort Lauderdale, I remember feeling tired and ready to relax. As a member of the conference committee, I had numerous duties and responsibilities, and frankly had hit my wall. As I reviewed the last set of sessions for the day, I seriously considered heading to my room to catch-up on sleep.  As I took one last look at the session offerings, I noticed that my neighboring colleagues at the University of Texas at Austin College of Liberal Arts Careers Services Office were presenting “Rainbow Road: Paving the Way for LBGTQIA+ Student Success.” As an openly gay man for my entire professional career in career services, I mistakenly thought I knew this topic well.  Despite my fatigue and misplaced confidence of knowledge on this topic, I decided to attend and see if I could learn something new.

By the second slide of their presentation, I realized there was so much I did not know and how I missed the opportunity to push for professional education on this topic in my own office.  My biggest takeaways were:

  • The importance of personal pronouns and the number of pronouns I did not know.
  • Many individuals are not fully aware that sexual orientation and gender identity are separate terms, and separate challenges, with different meanings.
  • Published advice on “dressing for success” on career services department websites and social media platforms may inadvertently exclude students that do not identify exclusively as a male or female.
  • The fact many of our colleagues, despite their careful and helpful intentions, are still struggling to assist students that identify as LBGTQIA+ through the job and internship search process. Many staff in non-urban and non-diverse cities may struggle because they have limited access to resources on assisting students that identify as LBGTQIA+.
  • Many assume that LBGTQIA+ individuals are protected by federal law from workplace discrimination because of recent Supreme Court decisions and executive orders by the previous presidential administration.  When in fact, these actions only prohibited discrimination for these populations at federal government agencies and businesses that contract with the federal government.
  • For most attendees, this session was not nearly long enough to address all of the content in their prepared presentation slides nor to adequately respond to the number of follow-up questions that were asked.

As I walked out of that session, I realized we all have knowledge on a number of issues related to diversity that we need not keep to ourselves.  If you have valuable insight and knowledge in any area of diversity, I strongly encourage you to submit a proposal to present at the 2017 Conference, author a blog, or join a Diversity & Inclusion Committee.  As members of a diverse and supportive community such as SoACE, we have a great opportunity to share our differing perspectives and learn from each other so we are better equipped to guide our students.  


Andrew Harper is the Manager of Employer Relations in Career and Professional Development at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas.  Andrew serves as programs chair for the 2017 SoACE Conference and represents Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas on the Cooperative Education & Internship Association (CEIA) Board of Directors.  He also previously served as president of the Texas Cooperative Education & Internship Association (TxCEIA). You can connect with him on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Focusing on the One

college classGreat leaders are also great attentive listeners and hear what those around them say.  Leaders listen to problems and then work to find solutions. It may be a solution for one person or many people. The solution may spring from one thought or conversation, but it all comes from focusing on “the one”.

Career coaches “one” are many- students.  Our students are at different stages and we must meet them where they are.  This led to me pondering, what were specific needs of each class and what did students need to be doing in the career development process while progressing through college? For example with first year students, I recalled conversations where students expressed the desire to focus on career goals, but the need to focus on school.  This was a “problem”, as a career coach I had to find the “solution”.    The “Career Shuffle” presentation was born! This presentation educated students on how to balance academics with careers and why that is important.  Students appreciated this specific focus on their needs and learned the small things to do to move forward their first year.  The workshop for second years focuses on how to transfer soft skills in the workplace to future jobs or careers.  Many students feel that if a job is not related to their major or  desired future job, it is not relevant, as career coaches we know this is not true.  It is important to teach students the value of jobs no matter what they may be.   Creating these workshops has helped me become a better leader and career coach by building better relationships with students. Students understand that I understand their needs and it helps build rapport.  As a result of presenting student focused workshops, I have seen an increase in the number of students in my office asking questions and receiving career assistance.  As career coaches and anyone in academia, our role is to meet students where they are and we can learn where they are by focusing on “the one”.   How do you focus on “the one”?

Hanna DeBruhlHanna DeBruhl has been in the career development field for almost 10 years. She is a certified Global Career Development Facilitator (GCDF) and currently serves as a career coach at Columbia College in Columbia, South Carolina. Hanna prepares students for the workforce through on-one-on coaching, classroom presentations, and on-campus workshops on various special topics. Previously, Hanna worked as a career specialist on the secondary level, teaching career exploration courses and connecting community speakers to educate students on various career fields and job oppotunities. Connect with Hanna on Twitter @HannaDeBruhl | LinkedIn | Personal Blog